Is eyewitness testimony reliable?

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Psychology Key Issue – Is eyewitness testimony reliable?

Eyewitness testimony refers to the statement given by a witness to an event/crime. It is important because in some cases, no forensic evidence can be traced. Also, jury members may lack the ability or confidence to interpret complex forensic evidence. Jury members tend to prefer and rely on eyewitness testimony. Therefore, eye witness testimony is vital source of evidence in a court of law. This is an issue has an inaccurate eyewitness testimony can lead to the conviction of an innocent man.

Eyewitness testimony can be unreliable due to interference, social prejudice, false reconstruction of the memory, along with many other factors. Eyewitnesses might have lapses in their memory of the event, and they will try to fill in those ‘empty spaces’ with they believe/expect to happen. For example, during a bank robbery they might describe the thieves as wearing black clothing, balaclavas with guns. This might not be accurate as the witness might not have been paying attention to the clothing but might have felt obliged to give a detailed description when alter questioned by the police officer. The descriptions might have evolved from social prejudice, from watching scenes on the TV etc.

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As most crimes include some sort of violence, this can cause eyewitness unreliability. Clifford and Hollin (1981) concluded that violence has a negative recall on memory, despite most of us believing that violence actually improves recall. Clifford and Hollin showed participants video footage of a man either stealing a woman’s handbag and roughly pushing her against a wall or asking her for directions. Recall was less accurate for the violent footage, this might have been because violence causes interferences in memory and therefore, does not allow rehearsal to take place/information to be transferred into the LTM.

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This is a rather odd concluding sentence - it seems truncated and leaves the essay with a rather unfinished air. It is also not explained why dismissing eye witness testimony would render rape an untriable crime. This should be addressed. Overall, there is good selection of material but it's not being used to its best effect in this essay. 3 stars. 3 stars.